David LaFlamme - violin, vocals; Patti Santos - vocals, percussion; Hal Wagenet - guitar; Mitchell Holman - bass; Fred Webb - keyboards; Val Fuentes - drums
It's a Beautiful Day always had a strong following in San Francisco, and although this show captures the band toward the end of their heyday, they still deliver a remarkably strong set that features the best material from their second and third albums in addition to expansive versions of almost everything from their classic first LP. With a more progressive rock sound than their contemporaries, and the skill to play anything from ethereal psychedelic music to straight heavy rock, It's a Beautiful Day became a huge draw in the Bay Area, which no doubt landed them the headlining spot on this night's show. Achieving uniqueness in the diverse musical melting pot of San Francisco was not an easy task; but the combined effect of the band's musical virtuosity, David LaFlamme's charisma and the captivating vocal blend he achieved with and Patty Santos contributed to make their live performances some of the most memorable of the era.
This is possibly one of the longest sets the group ever played, and contains many memorable performances. The band stretches out familiar songs and often reinvents them in the process. They begin in uncharacteristic form with "Creed Of Love," a track from their newest album at the time. This take shows the band beginning to lean in a new, blues based direction, as opposed to the breezy, familiar version of "Hot Summer Day" that follows, an FM radio staple from their first album. "Bye Bye Baby" continues in blues tinged vein similar to the set opener, while "Bitter Wine" shows the band heading in even different directions.
Their most revered song, the haunting "White Bird," follows. It is this version that receives so featured a spot in the Fillmore: the Last Days movie and album release documenting the closing of the Fillmore West. "Hoedown" showcases LaFlamme's frenetic fiddle playing and lends an air of good time country pickin' to the proceedings.
After introducing several more new songs, which are interesting but not as captivating, they hit a high mark with the incredible instrumental "Don & Dewey," another spotlight on LaFlamme's violin virtuosity. This piece was a tribute to the R&B duo of the same name that featured Don "Sugarcane" Harris on violin, who would redefine the instrument in the late '60s and bring it into a heavy rock and blues context.
Following a few more new songs, the band digs into the most intense material from their first album, and deliver outstanding performances of the atmospheric "Bombay Calling" and an intense rave-up on "Wasted Union Blues" to end the set. Both of these songs feature brilliant instrumental work and plenty of improvisation. Together they clock in at almost half an hour and leave the audience drained but wanting more. The band returns for a 20-minute encore consisting of the hypnotic and eerie instrumental "Bulgaria," followed by a wild, tumultuous jam on "Time Is," featuring frenzied violin pyrotechnics from LaFlamme.
This is a great example of the band, before a hometown crowd, at the peak of their powers. The live album they released the following year pales in comparison to this night's performance - one of the most fascinating sets of the Fillmore West closing week festivities.